They had been walking for days when a BBC film crew met them on a road outside of Homs. The group of refugees was fleeing the city's besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr, desperately trying to avoid the government's security forces. "We're homeless because we asked for freedom," a woman told the crew.
The group brought horror stories of gruesome murders and indiscriminate killings. "They took our husbands," a woman told the BBC's Paul Wood. "They took them at the checkpoint. They'll slaughter them like sheep," she cried.
Another family told of a massacre in the city. They say troops took 36 men from one area and killed them all. "My son's throat was cut," one of the women told the BBC, her face hidden behind a black veil. "One soldier held each down with a boot, another came with a knife," her husband added, according to a BBC translation. The couple's son was 12.
Last week, Syrian forces retook control over the long rebel-held district of Baba Amr in Homs. Fighters for the Free Syrian Army left the city as security troops entered and vowed to "cleanse" the area. As aid workers are banned from the city, and journalists and photographers are barred, accurate information about the state of Homs and the events unfolding within is hard to come by. Activists say heavy bombardments have almost leveled many districts. Water and food supplies are scarce, and medical aid is nearly inaccessible.
According to residents who fled to Lebanon in recent days, the conditions in Homs are dire.
"The smell of death was everywhere. We could smell the bodies buried under the rubble all the time," Ahmad, who fled to Lebanon last week, told Reuters. "Bodies are in the streets, many are decomposed but we could not bury them," he said. "We saw so much death that at the end the sight of a dismembered body of a relative or a friend stopped moving us."
U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has announced that he plans to visit Syria on Saturday.